North Carolina is known for bountiful agricultural harvests like sweet potatoes, cotton, and tobacco. In fact, no other state produces more sweet potatoes than North Carolina. (40% of our nation's sweet potatoes are grown by North Carolina farmworkers.)
With these prosperous farm crops comes many needs: Planting, fertilizing, cultivating, packaging. Our state creates many jobs for farmworkers. Unfortunately, working on a farm is dangerous. Farm work consistently ranks with the most hazardous jobs. Hazardous equipment and pesticide exposure are just two risks that farmworkers of any age must face.
The Tar Heel State is being scrutinized over child labor laws. Many jurisdictions impose a minimum age of 14 for farm employment. However, North Carolina child labor law permits workers to start work on farms at the age of 12. The News & Observer recently reported the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina recommends tobacco farms "should not employ children under age 16 to work in tobacco fields and should 'be cautious' about using workers ages 16 and 17." Of course, tobacco farm employers are still within the law when they hire younger workers. However, other news sources reported the child workers were suffering problematic work conditions and that some growers were violating work hour restrictions and not providing adequate protective gear.
This is not the first time violations of North Carolina's farmworkers have been a subject of lawmakers and the media. A few years ago job safety changes were proposed for agriculture workers. Living conditions, health care benefits, and on-site work hazards stirred political campaigns and resulted in a complaint filed by Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Child workers have rights--regardless of the industry they are employed. If your minor child was hurt at work, whether on a farm or elsewhere, you need to learn your child's rights under state law. Our attorneys can discuss proper working conditions, and we can help collect evidence of violations you suspect your child's employer is responsible for. From statements with former and current employees, to accident scene analysis - our firm can help. We have an entire department dedicated to workers' compensation cases in North Carolina and attorney Brent Adams is board-certified in trial law. We provide complimentary case reviews and you can contact our workers' comp lawyers here.